Facial Recognition Technology Could Make Boarding a Plane Much Easier

People waiting to board a plane | © Shutterstock
People waiting to board a plane | © Shutterstock
Photo of Peter Ward
Tech Editor1 June 2017

The line to board a plane can be excruciating. In front of you, you have the absent minded people rummaging around in their bags and pockets for their ticket, and behind you have the impatient masses, desperately trying to get on the plane as quickly as possible to shove their oversized hand luggage into your overhead compartment.

JetBlue is looking into a way to limit those frustrations, and is testing the use of facial recognition technology to make the boarding process paperless and eliminate the need for devices. All you would need to do is step up and look into a camera. A screen above the camera will notify passengers when they are clear to board.

The process would be completely automated, meaning JetBlue staff wouldn’t need to be involved at all. The company says staff would instead be able to deal with customer service and help individuals at the gate.

JetBlue's plans to introduce facial recognition technology | Courtesy of JetBlue

“We hope to learn how we can further reduce friction points in the airport experience, with the boarding process being one of the hardest to solve,” said Joanna Geraghty, executive vice president of customer experience at JetBlue, in a press release. “Self-boarding eliminates boarding pass scanning and manual passport checks. Just look into the camera and you’re on your way.”

JetBlue is working with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and air transport technology provider SITA on the project. If successful, the system has the potential to reduce waiting times to board planes and improve security at the same time.

Airlines have made steady progress with their airport technology over recent years, with online check in, self-check in booths, and self-bag drop kiosks all making the airport process less painful. If the security procedures can be made more convenient at the same time as keeping us safe, then a trip to the airport will be a lot less hassle in the future.

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